Eco-sensitive zones around state forest patches being redefined

The state forest department and the Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) are now redefining the boundaries of eco-sensitive zones around forest patches of Karnataka.

So far, of the 39 protected areas in Karnataka, only Bandipur Tiger Reserve had a defined eco-sensitive zone boundary. But soon, nine more will be added.

Following the meeting held in February by members of the expert committee of MoEFCC on defining buffer zones, the Karnataka forest department on March 11 sent a proposal to the state and central governments giving a detailed map and areas of the ESZs of nine forest patches —  BRT, MM Hills, Bannerghatta, Melkote, Ranganthittu, Chincholi, Bhadra, Ramadevarabetta and Nugu, said a forest department official.

The government is still awaiting a response from the Centre on the list of another 15 to define ESZs. “We sent the draft notification to the MoEFCC for its approval in January,” the official added.

The proposed draft notification has listed Cauvery, Brahmagiri, Pushpagiri, Ranebennur, Bhadra, Gudavi, Attiveri, Ghataprabha, Daroji, Godekotte (in Ballari), Rangayanadurga, Kudremukh, Mookambika, Someshwara and Aravithittu for defining the ESZ.

Bheemgad wildlife sanctuary was dropped from the list because of the Kalasa Banduri row, which is now before the central water tribunal. Dandeli too was dropped as the state government wants to reduce the ESZ boundary from the prescribed 1 km, an officer said.
According to the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, unless an ESZ and buffer zone are defined, it remains 10 km by default. The MoEFCC and forest department are defining ESZ following the Supreme Court direction to maintain at least one km as ESZ.

“But in many cases, there is pressure on us to reduce the ESZ. Hence, we have taken up the task of clearly demarcating the buffer zones and the ESZ around all protected areas through a central government notification,” the official explained.

“We too do not want to hurry. We will take time to define the boundary of Dandeli later, when work on Nagarhole, Anshi, Shettyhalli and Adichunchunagiri is taken up. Till then, boundaries will remain 10 km in keeping with the WPA,” he added.

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